The opposition to Delhi University’s proposed four-year degree course is getting stronger by the day. After teachers of the varsity, politicians and social activists have also come out openly against the decision. Speaking at a seminar organised by the Joint Action Front for Democratic Education (SC, ST, OBC and leftist), on 31 May at Delhi, among others, educationist Prof. Yashpal, well-known writer Arundhati Roy, JNU Prof. Jayanti Ghosh, Prof. Hargopal from Hyderabad University, JDU President Sharad Yadav, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and IJP chief Udit Raj, while strongly opposing the decision said that effecting such a major change, without any debate or discussion, was tantamount to perpetrating a fraud on the poor, Dalit-OBC and Hindi-speaking students.
They argued that the four-year course would translate into greater financial burden on the students of these classes. Their concerns were not entirely invalid. While democratic functioning mandates that all stake-holders should be taken into confidence before taking a major decision, at the same time, blindly opposing something merely because you were not consulted before implementing it is also not justifiable. What sort of education do we want for Dalit-OBCs? Do we want to make them able and proficient or merely dish out degrees to them? On the same lines, some years back, a couple of Socialist well-wishers of Dalits, who were dead opposed to English, did not rest till English was dropped as a compulsory subject in schools. Their argument was that due to compulsion of clearing the English-language paper, students from rural backgrounds failed in the exams. The argument was not devoid of merit but in retrospect, can anyone now say that the decision has yielded good results. By the same argument, a powerful ruling party politician in Bihar had allowed cheating in matriculation exams!
Under the four-year course, 11 ‘foundation’ subjects will be taught in the first year, of which English, Maths and Science will be compulsory. There are many positive aspects of the proposed system. This is a good initiative. The ‘foundation’ of students hailing from deprived sections is often weak and they will be benefitted by this change. For those requiring special assistance, free additional coaching should be provided, as is done in some IITs.
Keeping in mind SC-ST-OBCs are mainly from the working classes, the four-year course would be financially more burdensomefor them. Hence, the demand should be that such students who take admission in graduate courses should be given adequate scholarships along the lines of the Junior Research Fellowship given to M.Phil. and Ph.D. students.
Published in the July 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine